Project Green Beard: A Ripple For Inclusion In The Fitness Industry

A reflection of our impact on the world of training.

 

The fitness industry is worth over $36 billion and continues to grow. The days of home workouts with Jane Fonda and Schwarzenegger on Venice Beach have turned to the digital age where influencers have the power to reach millions, and where misinformation is rampant. Unlike the 80's when home workouts began a new trendy revolution of exercise, modern grasp of health and fitness has made multifaceted issues more mainstream. This includes diversity in the fitness industry, healthier perceptions on body image, and addressing accessibility.


When I launched Project Green Beard two years ago, it was a leap of faith after letting the concept brew for years. The goal was to create a company that fostered a strong community of people who would realize our underlying humanity in seeking better overall health and happiness. As a strength and conditioning coach, I felt a responsibility to counter false information, to better serve those seeking fitness advice, and to create a space where inspirational stories coming from all walks of life could be represented.


As we make our way into the second year as a company, we've partnered with Bay Area Wilderness Training and Bay Area Bike Project to start by supporting change locally. Accessibility within the fitness industry points to financial barriers, equipment availability (for different body types, different hair styles, etc.), adaptability, and physical barriers (i.e., public transportation, neighborhoods that are more secluded, scheduling conflicts with fitness classes). Though it may be overwhelming to address the topics all at once as coaches, trainers, or practitioners, it is imperative to examine how we can raise the standard of our work.


What can we do as individuals to make the fitness industry one that supports health equity? How can companies reflect these changes for future generations?

Diet fads and shiny exercise moves might seem attractive to the general population. I can think of a handful of friends who have participated in juice cleanses, intermittent fasting, obscure diets, or followed a variation of "get a big booty with this ten minute workout" videos. I can also confidently say that it's easy to be boring in explaining the science of what does and doesn't work. (Hot take: getting fit and staying fit is actually a relatively boring thing to do and involves consistency.)


These are issues that have been addressed for years. Take two popular examples: the keto diet and intermittent fasting (covered by popular sources). Ketogenic diets weren't really made for the average person to use, it's intent was for people with epilepsy and chronic disease. Intermittent fasting has been used for people who are prediabetic, not truly intended to be a fad (and if you're working out while fasted, that's another rabbit hole about properly fueling up). We might know the one week juice cleanse or the six weeks of crazy intense workouts isn't sustainable but it doesn't stop us from doing something crazy. What interests me is how to make the boring details of health and fitness interesting to the average human.

How can I make you view your health as a shiny fun thing? Because, believe it or not, your pursuit of good health is beautiful and interesting and inspiring.

A short internship at a DI Bay Area university where the strength and conditioning (performance team) staff valued equitable spaces for female coaches to rise in the industry gave me hope that the future holds space for much more than the classic toxic gym culture. Not only are these leading universities asking for well qualified staffing (minimum requirement of the NSCA-CSCS, a reputable S&C certification with a strong science and evidence-based backbone), the student athletes are receptive to learning foundational movement practices in the weight room and applying them in sport. Still, this only represents a small population that is highly invested in physical performance.


In the real world, many folks do not feel represented in both the healthcare and fitness industries. Building upon my foundation to better serve athletes and folks hitting the gym was a good first step, and in the coming months completing my Pregnancy and Postpartum Certification will help me serve a largely neglected population who hears some variation of "go on a 30 minute walk daily to stay healthy" tossed around as a solution to their fitness goals. (Hot take part two! If you're planning on having a baby, are pregnant, or are a new momma out there: trust me, there is much more you can do for your health and it doesn't have to be a polarizing "go on a walk" or "let's powerlift". There is a happy medium.)


The takeaway is that there is so much we can do as personal trainers and strength coaches to draw a higher standard for the industry. We can empower women to lift weights and lift heavy. We can applaud folks who enjoy daily walks outside. We can celebrate getting more people into outdoor spaces where they can experience the rejuvenating power of nature. We can be in awe of the powerlifters and 5k fun runners, the moms who lift their kid up onto the monkey bars and the kids who find joy in adaptive sports, and the men who don't judge and the folks near and far between.


I hope that I've created a company that can reflect a positive change in how we perceive fitness and strive towards better overall health, and that this message resonates with folks out there who feel this in their core. Fitness is too narrowly defined in what we see day to day and in research behind the scenes. Good health is for everyone. This is how we are all connected. We're just getting started. This is Project Green Beard.

 

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Written by:

Judith Wang

Founder, Project Green Beard

UCSC Banana Slug








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